Managing through the generation gap

February 26, 2009

Millennials bring fresh perspectives and work habits to the office.  Just like all other generations, they  are a product of their environment.

Consider the use of technology. Most generations learned to use a computer in high school, in college or even on the job. Millennials, however, grew up playing computer games, using e-mail and talking on a cell phone at a much earlier age than prior generations. While new technologies can still make a baby boomer’s head spin, to a millennial, they’re second nature. Technology doesn’t present the “fear factor” to millennials that it does to Baby Boomers and even to some Gen Xers.

Here’s a few more characteristics of millennials:

·         Developed work characteristics and tendencies from doting parents and structured lives.

·         Like to work in teams and want to make friends with people at work.

·         Look for feedback about their performance frequently – even daily.

·         Seek leadership and structure, from their older and managerial co-workers, but expect that you will draw out and respect their ideas.

HR Daily Advisor offers the following ten tips to on managing millennials and helping them thrive in your organization.

1.       Provide structure. For example, reports with monthly due dates, jobs with fairly regular hours, certain activities scheduled every day, meetings with agendas and minutes, goals that are clearly stated, and assessments of progress.

2.       Provide leadership and guidance. Millennials want to look up to you, learn from you, and receive daily feedback from you. They want “in” on the whole picture and to know the scoop.

3.       Encourage the millennials’ self-assuredness, can-do attitude, and positive personal self-image. Millennials are ready to take on the world. Encourage — don’t squash them or contain them.

4.       Take advantage of the millennials’ comfort level with teams. Encourage them to join. Millennials gather in groups and play on teams; you can also mentor, coach, and train your millennials as a team.

5.       Listen to the millennial employees. They are used to loving parents who have scheduled their lives around their children. These young adults have ideas and opinions, and don’t take kindly to having their thoughts ignored.

6.       Provide challenge and change. Boring is bad. Millennials seek ever-changing tasks within their work. What’s happening next is their mantra. Don’t bore them, ignore them, or trivialize their contribution.

7.       Expect multitasking. Millennials are multitaskers on a scale you’ve never seen before. Talk on the phone while doing e-mail and answering multiple instant messages? Yes; it’s a way of life.

8.       Take advantage of your millennials’ electronic literacy. The computer, mobile device, and other media capabilities of these employees are amazing. You have a salesman in China? How’s the trip going? Old-timers call and leave a message in his hotel room. Millennials text him in his meeting for an immediate response. (How about reverse mentoring—youngest workers train oldest workers?)

9.       Capitalize on the millennials’ affinity for networking. Not just comfortable with teams and group activities, millennial employees like to network around the world electronically.

10.   Provide work-life balance. Millennial employees are used to cramming their lives with multiple activities. Although they work hard, they are not into the 60-hour workweeks defined by the baby boomers. Balance and multiple activities are important. Ignore this at your peril.

Do you have any millennials in your office? Share your thoughts on how you have or haven’t had to change your management style to keep your office running as efficiently as possible.  Also, take a look at “A millennials view on working with millennials.”

 


If you’re sick, stay home!

February 24, 2009

The evening news recently reported about a new flu outbreak that’s hitting a lot of states. Ohio was identified as one state that’s been hit hardest. What was most concerning as I watched the report was the fact that Tamiflu (the drug used to treat the flu) appears to be ineffective in treating this particular flu strain.

After hearing this report I sent a message to everyone on staff alerting them to the fact that a tough strain of the flu was emerging and reinforcing one of my key management principles — “when you’re sick you should stay home.”

I admit to being a bit of hypochondriac and obsessing over how people have the ability to infect each other because many of us seem to think that our work and personal contributions are so important that we can’t afford to be gone. This “I have to be at work” mentality also seems to manifest itself in coming to work when sick as some sort of badge of courage showing how tough we are and how we’re ready to “play through the pain” because the company can’t afford to be without us even for one day.

I’ll also admit that my sensitivity is heightened because within the past few months we had an incident in our office when multiple people all became sick with the same symptoms and this led to extensive sick leave for many of our staff. That was a lesson in just how quickly and easily sickness can be spread — and it reinforced that we all need to be mindful of the potential impact on others when we decide to come to work when we’re sick. Someone who was sick and should have stayed home instead came to work and infected a lot of co-workers.

IF YOU’RE SICK —- STAY HOME. That’s the reason companies provide their employees with sick leave. Nobody should feel that they’re so valuable to the business that they have to come in regardless of health. And nobody should feel that they can come in when they’re sick and just keep to themselves so they won’t infect anyone else. Both are fallacies. Nobody is so valuable that they can’t be missed for a few days or even a few weeks. But our egos often don’t want to accept that.

How do we get that message across so it’s understood by employees? That’s the challenge I’m dealing with right now. For every person who seems to understand that I’m serious about the message “if you’re sick, stay home,” there’s at least one who feels they can’t afford to stay away. It doesn’t affect anyone’s pay, but it’s people’s egos that seems to get in the way of common sense when it comes to making the call, “I’m sick and need to stay home today.” Perhaps it’s a message that comes through most clearly when the boss and others in charge practice what they preach and stay home when they’re sick.


The Burning Question: Your CPA License

February 23, 2009

The most frequently asked questions of The Ohio Society of CPAs member service staff for the week of February 16, 2009 are:

  • How do I reactivate my CPA license?
  • Why should I hire a CPA over an unlicensed accountant? (for tax preparation, professional services, job opening)

There’s a common message in both questions – the CPA designation has value and relevance that’s critical in today’s environment.

Why the focus on the CPA credential; and why right now? In a climate of rational and irrational fears – Will I keep my job? Will I be able to retire? Will my investments recover? Is my business at risk? – the CPA designation brings a missing component the market is craving of stability and TRUST.

CPAs are respected and trusted. Our own marketing spin on CPAs is that they are the trusted professionals who bring insight and integrity to business information of all types. As professionals focus more on personal branding and how to make themselves essential to clients or employers, today’s reality is that the CPA is a strong differentiator. Members in business and industry are increasingly making sure that they’re able to “hold out” as having their CPA designation, and members in public practice are thinking “CPA first” in their marketing message. As staffing demands reduce, the CPA credential is more frequently a consideration in promotion and retention by employers.

If your CPA designation has not been a priority for you, now’s the time to rethink its importance. In Ohio, CPAs are required to maintain an active permit in order to use the designation without qualification. Reactivating your permit is easy – the Accountancy Board of Ohio (ABO) requires that a licensee who holds an Ohio registration (inactive license) apply for the active permit and complete a total of 120 hours of continuing education credit during the three years preceding application.

Completing the CPE is easy as well, with options convenient for your needs. If you have any questions, the Member Service staff at OSCPA will be happy to assist you with your unique needs at CPAnswers@ohio-cpa.com, or 888.959.1212. For specific questions related to your CPA license, the ABO staff encourage you to call: 614.466.4135.

Why a CPA?

  • You worked hard for it. The process to become a CPA is rigorous – you’ve earned it – use it!
  • CPAs adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. That means something in terms of direct value in today’s marketplace (Integrity + Objectivity + Professional Competence = Trust. Trust = Value.)
  • CPAs have a commitment to continual learning. Knowledge = Value.

The Ohio Society of CPAs is fully committed to being your partner in success.

For the public:

  • To find a CPA in Ohio, call toll-free 888.959.1212 or visit our Web site.
  • This season, make sure the person you turn to for advice and help is certified and proudly identifies themselves as a CPA.

Action Management

February 17, 2009

A sponsored link in a recent AICPA CPA Daily caught my eye when it referenced a blog “5 Tips for More Productivity in 2009”.

While it turned out that the blog is essentially promoting a new project management software package, Action Method Online, the underlying theory upon which the package is based intrigues me.

Essentially, the presumption is that we are buried in way too much communication (I hear you!), reducing our organizations’ effectiveness. With so much communication, particularly via e-mail and online communication tools, it becomes difficult to efficiently separate information requiring action from information that’s just information, resulting in action requests being lost. The theory suggests that we separate action communication from informational communication, and that we separate information from discussion, by hosting each in discrete tools.

One discipline to accomplish this would be to have internal e-mail be used only for information. Ongoing electronic discussions would be conducted on discussion boards. And anything that requires action would instead be logged directly into the organization’s project management software. If individuals then focus their time on completing actions rather than sorting and filing information, it naturally results in increased productivity. Of course this presumes an organization-wide commitment to everyone using these tools.

I love the theory’s “bias toward action.” One of the sponsor’s theories is that design is a significant component in success of a software strategy, and I think their tool is a star when it comes to design. Upon checking out the product further, the project management tools aren’t as robust as I prefer (tasks are displayed in an array like post-its, without the sorting and nesting I require;) but there are starting to be positive reviews online from individuals using the tool for a single user within the creative fields (search for Action Method on Twitter.

Similar philosophies are starting to be recognized by companies adopting “e-mail free Fridays,” to reduce the time staff spend processing information and increase the time spent working. Companies have found social and emotional benefits from breaking the electronic communication chain and actually speaking to their teams in the office.Paraphrasing the 5 tips blog – let’s spend the new year focusing on what can move us forward as organizations, and find ways to focus on ACTION.


Investing in Irrational Markets

February 16, 2009

“The world is greedy – it still believes in magic,” summarized Tom Davidson, CFP, Summit Financial Strategies, in explaining market behaviors in last week’s personal financial planning Hot Topic Webinar on post-modern portfolio theory.

While I am most certainly not a financial planner, I enjoy quick updates that make me a more well-rounded professional in managing a variety of functions within business operations. I feel it’s an important part of our core value of professional competence, and Davidson was entertaining and timely in hitting the issues that I’m worrying about today.

Over the years, we’ve been comforted by the diversification of our portfolios, secure in our knowledge that by regularly investing small dollar amounts over a long period of time, dollar cost averaging will earn us a return commensurate with our stomach for risk, as reflected in our asset allocations…you’ve heard all of this before, and probably teach it regularly to your customers or clients.

Per Davidson, what changes in an irrational market is the meaning of “diversification” in this scenario. In yesterday’s portfolio theory, we believed that asset allocation among a variety of stock and bond funds, including some cash and some exposure to international markets and smaller companies, provided us with diversification. In irrational markets, this type of asset allocation may be insufficient.

Davidson studies correlations between types of investment classes, and has found that in an irrational market (defined as no longer tied to underlying fundamentals,) the correlation in terms of direction of movement of various asset classes grows closer and closer to 1.0. In other words, they all move in the same direction, more or less the same amount – i.e., no diversification benefit.

We are definitely in a period where there will be greater volatility, and modern portfolio theory takes advantage of volatility by combining individual volatile assets into portfolios to reduce risk. But as we’ve learned from the mortgage market, that theory doesn’t work either when all of the individual assets move in the same direction.

Post-modern portfolio theory looks for investment alternatives that have a negative correlation to your other investments. In an increasingly global marketplace, the size of business or nation of origin are less likely to provide negative correlations to your standard asset classes. So the trick is to identify new asset classes that provide less correlation. But one fault of this approach is that it relies on historical correlations, rather than forward-looking projections.

So how do we look forward in expanding the asset classes we are willing to consider in our investment strategies? Not being a registered investment advisor, I won’t attempt to suggest the right assets to select in today’s market. But bottom line, we may need to open our minds to what may be better “diversifiers” that are acceptable for our businesses’ or our own personal risk tolerance.

Davidson recommends “Asset Allocation” by Roger Gibson (2008,) “The Only Guide to Alternative Investments You’ll Ever Need” by Swedroe and Kizer (2008,) and “Pioneering Portfolio Management” by Swenson (2009 – particularly for institutional investing.)

As I have no specialization in financial planning, this simply opens my eyes for discussions with our professional investment advisor. But what I’ve learned most significantly is that you can gain critical knowledge in small chunks that makes you more effective as a CPA professional.

Check out the OSCPA online library for past hot topic Webinars on your topics of interest.


Social Technologies within Associations

February 9, 2009

I’m typing this while attending a conference session about how associations need to be more active in entering the world of social networking. It’s an interesting session with a good speaker, but what’s striking to me is the apparent resistance among an audience of association staff professionals. The discussion has shifted to all the downsides of blogs, in particular, rather than seeing the upside and opportunities that come from entering the world of social networking.

Why is that? Why do association executives, who are usually aggressive and focused on the opportunities they see, seem to lose their courage when it comes to being part of the social networking revolution?

I think the answer probably lies in a fundamental lack of awareness. Too many of us aren’t investing the time needed to appreciate the power that social networks represent. We’re all aware of what’s going on, but too many seem to be content to just read articles about blogs, Twitter, etc., rather than actually invest the time to understand and be part of this dimension of the online world.

Just as we all invested time in learning how to master Windows when Microsoft introduced it, it’s time for us to do the same with all the social networking tools. We need to understand how these fit into being part of the “community” we try to create in our associations and how we can leverage them as basic tools in our efforts to “tell the story” about our organizations. They represent great tools to create buzz, and in the future it’s just possible that “community” will be built around these social networking tools as the backbone of our associations. Do you want to be left behind as this happens? I don’t think so.

So what’s an association executive to do? First, spend some time immersing yourself in the social networking tools. Sign up on Twitter and find some people to follow. Then make some observations of your own. For many it will become addictive.

Among the association community, we need to expand the dialogue about how social networking fits into association’s communications strategies. Too few of us – including me – are spending enough time on the strategic side of how social networking is revolutionizing our organizations. The number of association execs who are really focused on social networking must grow – or we’re going to be left in the dust. And nobody wants to have their association be relegated to being irrelevant.


Mentors needed

February 9, 2009

Do you remember your first mentor? They may have had a significant impact on your career. Maybe it was your first supervisor. Where would you be today without the guidance and advice you received from your mentor?

As I look back, I realize that one of the most valuable gifts my mentor gave to me was his time. Time to listen, time to coach, time to make me feel like I was worth the investment. In today’s business world where everything moves at the speed of light, time is a rare luxury. Everything moves so fast, from our schedule to new technology. Have you taken the time to make yourself available as a mentor?

Just as generations and the workplace have changed, so has mentoring. According to Les McKeown, president and CEO of Deliver The Promise, a Tiburon, CA consulting firm that specializes in mentoring, “Today, mentoring is less power–related. It’s less about seniority and teaching, and more about sharing and development.”

Mentoring is about the connection and relationship created. And while there is a clear mentor and mentee, both stand to gain from the mentoring relationship. The “protégé” is able to identify a role model and learn from their advice and guidance. They develop a confidant to turn to for help with the tougher workplace and career changing decisions. Remember, we are most likely talking about Gen Yers – a generation that puts a clear priority on having give and take, and an office culture that is rewarding, nurturing and empowering to them.

What do you stand to gain from being a mentor?  If nothing else, you’re going to have the opportunity to give back.

Do you have time to be a mentor? As your career developed, you know how important it was to have a mentor. Is there any reason to believe it is any less important to have a mentor today?

I know I was fortunate to have a mentor – someone who truly took an interest in me, my experiences, my career. To this day, when I need to talk to someone, he is still one of the first people I call. Mentoring is so important to the individual – for their career and confidence – and to the business – for recruiting and retaining employees.

Now, it’s my turn to be a mentor. And it’s yours. It’s all too easy to say “when I have time  . . .” or “I’ll sit down and talk with him tomorrow.” Make tomorrow today. Tag, you’re it.


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